In a digital world, consumers are trained to assume “professional photography” concludes with a downloadable gallery (because that’s what their friends got, right?). So when you’re working to grow your business by selling more wall art and albums, it’s a bit of an uphill battle.
It’s our job to educate our clients about the benefits of choosing an expert that will do all the work for them and as a result, they receive professional works of art. By shifting this mindset, you’ll be able to grow and scale your business all while providing your clients with a more meaningful experience.
Impactful First Impressions
When a prospective client first interacts with your brand, you only have a fraction of a second to make a first impression. If you want to attract clients that value albums and art, your messaging needs to be perfectly clear right from that very first impression. Rather than just showing your beautiful images on your website’s homepage, showcase them on actual printed products. This will allow people to envision their “future self” flipping through an album with their children, or showing off their epic engagement prints to their friends. Now you’re not only providing them with an excellent service, but you’re making their lives better by allowing them to relive and display their special moments.
Printed Products, Everywhere
Don’t be afraid to come right out and ask your clients: “What do you want to do with your images? Is there a particular area in your home you want to create a display for? How would you like to relive this experience with your family?” The more you’re able to talk openly about tangible products, the more they will begin to visualize having these heirlooms for themselves. This way, when the time comes to ask for the sale, it seems like second nature to choose albums and art over digital files.
Heirloom and album registries (we use StickyFolios) are a great way to help clients plan for an upcoming print investment by asking their guests to gift them a studio credit for their wedding or baby shower. This is also a great solution for the couple that is excited about the additional investment for prints and art but worried about the cost.
Most often, our clients are coming to us because they want a particular milestone documented. They may be getting married, having a baby, graduating high school, or honoring a wonderful year as a family of four. Perhaps it’s celebrating self-love and empowerment with a fine-art boudoir session. Whatever it is, we need to push ourselves to find the deeper meaning as to why these moments are so special to them. Then, we can translate that into why they need to have them displayed all over their house.
When it comes time for the sale, display a pre-designed album slideshow set to music to help tell the story, draw all the emotions, and remind them of all the wonderful reasons these photographs are so special.
When I first heard of “in-person sales,” there were a million and one reasons that came to mind as to why it would never work (“my clients won’t pay for that”, “everyone else is offering digitals”, “I can’t afford to invest in sample products”, “I don’t have time to meet with clients again and again”, “I don’t want to come off as sales-y or pushy”). The only other alternative was too many nights and weekends away from my family, working at a high-volume, delivering an unfulfilling experience to my clients. That was not an option for me.
MY FIRST SALE
I was incredibly nervous leading up to my first print sale—my hands were shaking when I took my client’s credit card. The price they paid: $800. That might not seem like a whole lot, but it was a heck of a lot more than I was making just handing over an online gallery! Here’s how it all broke down, cost-wise:
• 10 x 10 press book: $75
• 16 x 24 mounted print: $56
• Bottle of wine: $12
• Branded packaging and client gift: $26
Time invested equaled four hours designing the album, one hour cleaning the house and prepping for the sale, a three-hour order session, and one hour of final retouches, ordering and packaging.
My final profit after subtracting my costs totaled $631 (nine hours of work at $70/hour).
That first sale was the exact push I needed to realize the potential of running a print business. It was like a giant lightbulb went off in my head asking, “Why did I wait this long?” and, “Why aren’t more people doing this?”
Full disclosure: I’ve certainly had my fair share of flops ending with $0 print sales, and as you’re getting started with sales, you should know that this can (and most likely will) happen. Don’t let it discourage you. As you continue to invest in your business and your sales process, your averages will naturally start to climb, and you can scale your profits even more.
after two to three Years
A couple of years later, I had $3,500 sales averages, 20 percent COGS (Cost of Goods Sold, products ordered from lab), $76 in fixed costs (wine, packaging, client gift), $65 in labor (assistant, $25/hour), one- to two-hour order sessions, and 15 to 30 minutes of my time for team management, equaling $1,063 per hour.
Today, I have a sales average of $3,700, and 20 percent COGS (products only), $76 in fixed costs (wine, packaging, client gift), $90 in labor plus commissions for my studio manager, and 15 to 30 minutes of my time for team management, equaling a $2,609 average business profit per sale ($5k+/hour).
With a team that helps with client management, album designing and hosting the sale, I’m able to focus on elevating our client experience and growing the business.
Part of what helps seal the deal depends on how you show your clients what’s available and what the end product will look like. We do this in a design session. The time spent in a session will vary depending on the type of session it is—portraits or engagement sessions can take an hour or less, whereas weddings are usually closer to two hours because of the amount of images and size of the album. Here’s a timeline breakdown:
• 5 minutes or less of catching up and building excitement with the couple (if it is in person, we will offer them drinks and let them shop the studio).
• 3- to 5-minute album slideshow of the pre-designed album.
• 20 to 60 minutes of tweaking the design (removing spreads, swapping images, etc.).
• 5 minutes or less of finalizing upgrade options or choosing a print collection.
• 10 to 15 minutes selecting wall art options and any other additional items.
• 5 minutes or less of custom options.
• 5 minutes of wrap-up and next steps
Serve with Style & Grace
When you’re committed to serving your customer to the best of your abilities throughout the entire experience, offer an unparalleled product, with high-level quality control and customer service. Take the extra effort to go above and beyond and you will always win. Not to mention, you will always find people that are willing to pay more for that level of attention. Don’t stop at the gallery, don’t stop with just shipping an album to your client and calling it a day—add in the extra sprinkles! Use branded packaging, an extra gift and personalized notes to make their new purchase an honor to open. Lastly, follow up with your clients about their thoughts on the full experience. Kind words and testimonials from others are the best forms of marketing.
Makayla Jade, founder of The Harris Company, developed a brand distinguished by providing an elevated photo and cinema client experience, propelling the company to reach multiple six-figures in less than three years by appealing to a niche clientele that places a high value on printed products and photographic art. She has been featured in major industry magazines and at conferences, sharing techniques involving brand marketing, and unique approaches to educating clients about the importance of print and investing in heirlooms.
Related: How to Sell More Photo Prints